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Sleepwalking [Blu-ray] [Import]
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Anchorbay Sleepwalking (Blu-ray) Jolene Reedy (Oscar(R) winner Charlize Theron) is a disillusioned single mother prone to bad men and reckless behavior. Heryounger brother James (Nick Stahl of "In The Bedroom" and "Carnivale") is a weak-willed underachiever who can't hold a job. But when Jolene abandons her 12-year-old daughter (AnnaSophia Robb of "Bridge To Terebithia") with James, uncle and niece make a fateful decision to flee to the farm of James and Jolene's abusive father (Academy Award(R) nominee Dennis Hopper). In a past plagued by dark secrets, can family prove to be the most desperate bond of all? Oscar(R) nominee Woody Harrelson co-tarsin this acclaimed Sundance Festival Premiere Selection about the cycles of love, loss and waking upto the first day of the rest of your life.
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Joleen (Charlize Theron) is the inadequate, loving-but-inconstant mother of twelve-year-old Tara (AnnaSophia Robb) whose reckless an aimless life leads to constant moving and lack of roots. Evicted form her latest residence Joleen and Tara move in with Joleen's younger brother James (Nick Stahl) whose similarly aimless life is defined by a trashy apartment and a mindless construction work job. Tara is sullen, disappointed in her mother's erratic, irresponsible behavior, and when Joleen once again takes off 'on a new idea', Tara is left with James - trying to figure out an existence for survival. James loses his job due to absenteeism, takes up residence in the filthy basement of his nerdy co-worker Randall (Woody Harelson), while the town cop (Mathew St. Patrick) reluctantly places Tara in a foster home to await the return of Joleen. Tara prefers life with James to her 'imprisonment' and the two take off on a road trip, seeking some degree of happiness and love in a world gone berserk. When James runs out of money, he heads to his old home farm for refuge, an unlikely endpoint as his and Joleen's childhood was warped by their abusive farmer father (Dennis Hopper). The return to the farm, James hopes, will provide connection to Tara's past, but instead it results in a tragedy that ultimately moves Tara back to her 'home' and to Joleen, while James drives off into the unknown future, finally awakened from his sleepwalking through life.
The film is as bleak as the flat and snowy countryside (the film was shot in Canada's winter) and that countryside reflects the desperate loneliness of the characters. The small cast offers solid portrayals with the work of Nick Stahl being the standout performance. Theron, Robb, Harelson, Hopper, and Deborra-Lee Furness (in a small but poignant role) make the best of a shaky script. This is a mood piece and can become depressing if the viewer expects resolution of the sad and empty lives the characters lead. But there is a haunting quality to the look of the film that stays with the viewer, especially in the mystery in the eyes of the character James as he drives into an unknown but awakened future. Grady Harp, July 08
Recommendations: If you enjoyed this, check out "Undertow" starring Jamie Bell and Josh Lucas.
This movie was much different than what I expected. After watching the preview, I thought James and Tara were going to escape their troubles, start over and be happy with their new lives. But what they do is go from a bad situation to one much worse. James' father (Dennis Hopper) is an evil man who cares nothing about his family. Once he was introduced I could see why Joleen was so troubled, why she was so desperate for a man's love and especially why she had that nasty mouth. I also understood why James was like a scared little boy in a man's body.
I cannot say I enjoyed this movie, but I won't say that I totally disliked it. I felt for Joleen, James and Tara, I will say that. Their story was so sad, but there was a bit of hope in the end.
Parents: There is profanity, a sexual situation(not graphic)and the violence is not extreme compared to most movies these days.
This is an edited version of my original review, and contains spoilers, so read no further if you haven't yet seen the film.
'Sleepwalking' opens with Tara and her ditzy, emotionally fragile mom Joleen losing the roof over their heads when Joleen's boyfriend is arrested for growing pot. Joleen's brother James (Nick Stahl) is a nice guy with a drab apartment and a dead-end job he is often late or absent to. When Joleen shows up in the middle of the night with Tara in tow he takes them in, and it is not the first such upheavel in Tara's young life.
Tara's relationship with her mom is summed up nicely in a scene that occurs their first night staying with James...Tara is being understandably sullen, and Joleen snaps "This is not the kind of s*** I need fom you right now, Tara!" Tara's reply is classic: "So what kind of s*** do you need, Mom?"
One morning Joleen is gone with no explanation - save for a letter promising to return for Tara's birthday - thus leaving Tara and James to fend for themselves...Tara pleads with James to help her search for her mother, and he finally gives in, calling in sick to work...His attendance issues ultimately get James fired, and social services puts Tara in foster care...James, facing eviction himself and with Tara gone, crashes in the basement of a buddy from his old job, played by Woody Harrelson.
Tara's birthday arrives, but no Joleen...James buys her a present and takes her out, and when the time comes to return Tara to her foster home, she refuses to go back, and the two hit the road.
They stay in various motels, posing as father and daughter, and this leads to one of my favorite scenes: The one mentioned by a previous reviewer in which Tara skates around the indoor motel pool and onto the diving board...She dives in fully-dressed and skate-dances on the bottom of the pool, while two younger boys watch in astonishment. Later she and James check out, and Tara, noticing the two boys nearby, leaves her skates for them.
I will not divulge any more of what happens, as others on here have already done so...My only complaint with the ending is that James (now a fugitive) has driven himself out of Tara's life, his fate unknown, while Tara ends up back with her unreliable mother.
But then again, isn't that typical of real life?